Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility

Conclusions: The treatment of idiopathic male infertility could benefit from employing acupuncture. A general
improvement of sperm quality, specifically in the ultrastructural integrity of spermatozoa, was seen after
acupuncture.

Jian Pei, Ph.D.,a,b Erwin Strehler, M.D.,b Ulrich Noss, M.D.,c Markus Abt, Ph.D.,d
Paola Piomboni, Ph.D.,e Baccio Baccetti, Ph.D.,e and Karl Sterzik, M.D.b

 

a Longhua Hospital, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China; b Christian-Lauritzen-Institut, Ulm, Germany; c In Vitro Fertilization Center Munich, Munich, Germany; d Institute for Mathematics,University of Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany; and e Department of Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Reproductive Medicine, Section of Biology, Siena University, Siena, Italy

Objective: To evaluate the ultramorphologic sperm features of idiopathic infertile men after acupuncture therapy.

Design: Prospective controlled study.

Setting: Christian-Lauritzen-Institut, Ulm, IVF center Munich, Germany, and Department of General Biology,
University of Siena, Siena, Italy.

Patient(s): Forty men with idiopathic oligospermia, asthenospermia, or teratozoospermia.
Intervention(s): Twenty eight of the patients received acupuncture twice a week over a period of 5 weeks. The
samples from the treatment group were randomized with semen samples from the 12 men in the untreated control
group.

Main Outcome Measure(s): Quantitative analysis by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was used to
evaluate the samples, using the mathematical formula based on submicroscopic characteristics.

Result(s): Statistical evaluation of the TEM data showed a statistically significant increase after acupuncture in
the percentage and number of sperm without ultrastructural defects in the total ejaculates. A statistically
significant improvement was detected in acrosome position and shape, nuclear shape, axonemal pattern and
shape, and accessory fibers of sperm organelles. However, specific sperm pathologies in the form of apoptosis,
immaturity, and necrosis showed no statistically significant changes between the control and treatment groups
before and after treatment.

Conclusion(s): The treatment of idiopathic male infertility could benefit from employing acupuncture. A general
improvement of sperm quality, specifically in the ultrastructural integrity of spermatozoa, was seen after
acupuncture, although we did not identify specific sperm pathologies that could be particularly sensitive to this
therapy. (Fertil Steril 2005;84:141–7. ©2005 by American Society for Reproductive Medicine.)

Key Words: Idiopathic male infertility, sperm ultrastructure, transmission electron microscopy, acupuncture 

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